Things Hippies Got Right

Today hippies can be identified by little more than a disinterest in makeup and penchant for natural hairstyles. In their heyday, however, being a hippie meant more than a preference for alternative hygiene. Hippies were an important counterculture of the sixties, and as a group they stood for something. A handful of the values and propositions once considered “hippie hogwash” by mainstream America have since become as common as sliced bread at the supermarket. Here are six important things the hippies got right.


In the 1960s, upstanding Americans who did traditional things like going to work, donning a suit and paying their taxes wondered what the flower children did all day. It looked like they spent a significant amount of time sitting about, possibly stoned. Their time spent staring aimlessly into space, however, turned out to be much more useful than many had thought. In fact, a good number of high-level executives now swear by morning meditation rituals, rebranded these days as “mindfulness.”

A slew of studies confirm what hippies knew all along: meditation has many health benefits. From stress reduction to increased cognitive abilities, scientists are finding physical, measurable changes can occur in those who practice meditation techniques.


While various gurus denounce the commercialization of yoga, the fact remains that people who used to spend eight hours a day sitting at desks without reprieve now often take the time to stand up and stretch. Whether they are missing the “spiritual component” is less important than the physical and mental benefits of practicing yoga. 

There are many forms of yoga, and which particular practice a person chooses impacts the specific benefits they are most likely to enjoy. In general, yoga improves balance, strength, flexibility and endurance. Other benefits include cardiovascular improvement, increased bone density, and relief from chronic back pain. The breathing aspects of yoga ensure that practitioners also gain some of the benefits of meditation.

Organic food

Though the organic food movement did not begin with the hippies, they certainly urged the industry along. As with yoga, some of the hippie wisdom has been lost in translation. Organic milk is still ultra-pasteurized, a process that kills many natural vitamins. Local farmers’ markets, though more popular, aren’t nearly as mainstream as the billion-dollar, corporate organics market. Moreover, the price tag on organics keeps this movement upper middle class.

Still, taking an active interest in what goes into our food and how these inputs impact health is a great idea, one that hippies helped bring to the masses.


By the middle of the twentieth century, bottle-feeding babies was the American norm. Women who weren’t convinced by convenience alone had bought into formula milk as an enlightened, scientific way to nurture their tots. It was hippies and feminists who began to preach the benefits of breastfeeding in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, around 75 percent of new mothers begin with the breast and most women believe that breast is best. The potential benefits of breastfeeding include higher IQ, better mother-baby bonding, lower levels of cholesterol and fewer cases of infant leukemia. 

One particularly interesting study looked at the components of woman’s breast milk when their babies were sick and found that the milk actually changed in order to best help the baby fight ongoing infections. Researchers now think that a child’s saliva backwash can place a “special order” for particular milk-delivered antibodies. Even journalist Hanna Rosin, infamous for writing against the breastfeeding movement for The Atlantic, admits that “breast-feeding is probably, maybe, a little better.”

While we can thank the hippies for the resurgence of breastfeeding, we’ll need to look elsewhere to lay the blame for its unfortunate co-conspirator: shaming of women who still use the bottle. After all, hippies preached tolerance and kindness.


Environmentalism comes in a variety of packages and with an even greater number of policy prescriptions. Most everyone, however, can agree that the environment is important and that we, as human beings, should protect Earth’s natural resources. We can thank the hippies for that. Yesterday, Greenpeace activists were mocked for sailing our oceans in defense of the whales. Today, popular opinion and protest has forced the SeaWorld theme parks to end its orca captivity program. There is still a long way to go, but the environmental movement is making waves.

An end to war?

Make love, not war was the number one hippie slogan of the 1960s. Though it is unclear how a general rise in promiscuity has impacted society, the impact of war since Vietnam has been relatively clear. It has been bad. Very bad. Astoundingly bad.

We could have saved ourselves a whole lot of trouble if we had just listened to the pesky hippies back when their silly slogan was popular. Since 9/11, US military intervention overseas has cost $1.6 trillion. A sizable percentage of this money was spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. This number is conservative, as it does not include the health-care costs of returned veterans. Though US casualties have been significantly fewer than Vietnam, the relative numbers hardly matter to the families of those who have not returned from war.

Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan have evolved into the liberal beacons of democracy that American warmongers sought to create. There is significant evidence to suggest that our “War on Terror” has only served to fuel the fire of radicalization. The end result: Americans are much less likely to co-sign for a new war anytime soon.

Do you think the impact of hippie culture has been a net positive for American society?

—Erin Wildermuth

Erin is a freelance writer, photographer and filmmaker. She is passionate about moving beyond party politics to identify pragmatic solutions to social, economic and political problems. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Times, the American Spectator, Doublethink and Scuba Diver Magazine. She spends her free time scuba diving, snowboarding and ravenously reading popular nonfiction. Erin holds a master’s degree in International Political Economy from the London School of Economics.



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